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Manga / Thou Shalt Not Die

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The protagonists, Kuroi (left) and Mashiro (right).

Away to the battlefield the emperor cannot go.
That be where men go to bleed and die on the "path of beasts".

In the future, supernatural abilities have not only been determined to exist, but also has a whole science built around it. Through genetic engineering and extensive research, the nature of these powers have been refined to allow for a number of applications, among them: War.

Thou Shalt Not Die (Kimi Shi ni Tamou koto Nakare, 君死ニタマフ事ナカレ), written by Yoko Taro and illustrated by Daisuke Moriyama, follows the students attending the "Special Abilities Private High School", Kuroi and Mashiro, alongside their companions as they try to get through school and survive in an ever increasingly hostile world.

Also has a stage-play titled Thou Shalt Not Die Zero.

The story provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: Mashiro can absorb a lot of damage and even resist mind control, but electricity will cripple her ability to fight.
  • A-Cup Angst: Asagi said to a girl the reason he comes to Soap Land is because if he doesn't she'll be out of a job, being too flat chested for the other's tastes. She takes offense to that comment.
  • America Saves the Day: Subverted. Japan has to ask the U.S forces to extract the remaining children in the first arc, and they arrived in the nick of time to stop a berserk Mashiro from killing Kuroi and possibly everyone else. Later, the Japanese officers explains they had to let the Americans test if the gifted children are under control (which is why they waited for so long before neutralizing Mashiro); and Asagi suspects Engineered Heroics, since with their equipment, not only were they waiting for this but they likely leaked children's positions to the guerilla forces the whole time.
  • Anyone Can Die: Besides Kuroi, Mashiro and maybe Asagi (who has, at best, three years to live due to a rapidly aged brain causing severe dementia), just about any named character seems to be fair game, and even Kuroi and Mashiro haven't escaped unscathed. A named character getting crippled or Put on a Bus is pretty much the best fate for them.
  • Armchair Military: Fitting the poem, a major theme is about higher ups who send kids to die, downright ignoring their calls for help and using them for operations that can only end in a bloodbath.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Psy-Res, the metal allows a better reach and more options to the close range psychics by connecting their blood to the blade. The downside is that the connection isn't a one way street and the wielder can feel what the blade is being drenched in or connect with another Psy-Res blade. When used by sadists like Yanagi it doesn't take long for them to get high on the taste of blood.
  • Colourful Theme Naming: The main characters are named after colors. Kuroi (Black), Mashiro (White), Asagi (Yellow), and so on.
  • The Berserker:
    • If Mashiro sustains severe injury of any kind, she will shift from her usual sweet self, to a completely out of control beast complete with Black Eyes of Crazy that can't tell friend from foe.
    • Tokiwa explains that the reason they do their experiment on kids with latent powers instead of adults is because they become this, as he demonstrates with Jean saying that in thirty minutes his brain will melt but in the meantime he is an enraged juggernaut.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The unfortunate result of a lot of characters in the first chapter alone, including Usuki in graphic detail. Kikyo casually suffers this from Tokiwa via Offhand Backhand, when he doesn't even have powers.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • After Mashiro shrugs off bullets tearing her midsection, Kuroi's mind breaking ability and even a few slashes with sword, the Americans simply taze her. Asagi even gives one to Kuroi in case it happens again.
    • Telekinesis isn't that flashy compared to air bombs or Mind Rape but a good user can bring a lot of firepower since they can crush cars and skulls from a distance.
  • The Champion: Kuroi to Mashiro. He doesn't care about anyone else, and even let two seniors to die because he didn't see why they should be kept alive. Mashiro has to order him to protect or not kill other schoolmates.
  • The Conspiracy: The Shirotae Project. It used to be a secret project that did numerous inhumane experiments hidden from the public eye for the sake of finding some kind of immortality elixir for the sake of its leader Miyata Seijiro, all disguised as a simple hospital. The whole thing has influence in several branches of the government, allowing them to keep up their actions with impunity. However the leader died 20 years before the start of the story, yet the project kept going despite that and is now controlled by an unknown individual. This project is also the cause of the sudden appearance of children with special abilities due to the numerous experiments done towards pregnant women in its hospital. This is also why a lot of the kids lost their parents as they could have leaked the info, Momoka's among them.
  • Crapsack World: Did you expect anything else from a manga by Yoko Taro? Kids with special powers are used as bioweapons, most of them suffer from severe psychological issues due to their powers and upbringing and the whole world doesn't care or know about the Child Soldiers being sent to die.
  • Creepy Child: Yanagi and Kuroi are like that since they are children.
  • Decoy Protagonist: At first, Usuki is portrayed as the leading man, seemingly more sane and stable than his peers, as well as having an unremarkable but useful power. Then his head gets turned into salsa at the end of the first chapter.
  • Depopulation Bomb: Tokiwa invented a virus that infect Caucasians and kill them in a week. It was made specifically for a week since it gives time for the infected to go home and spread the virus on top of being carried by everything including animal, meaning they could kill half the population of Europe if released at the proper place. He was also supposed to produce a virus for ethnic cleansing on muslims for the French fascist wing.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Most of the kids were unstable before the school turned them into weapons and took away their rights as human beings. The rest get killed either by their schoolmates or the army they were sent to fight.
  • Eye Scream: Happens a lot during the gory scenes and Kuroi ends up losing an eye, though in his case, "scream" might be the wrong word.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: A big part of the story is that the students are viewed as little more than weapons, and the story makes this very clear when they where told that they would be transporting plutonium for weapons use when in reality, there was no plutonium. They themselves where the thing that they where supposed to transport.
  • Genre Deconstruction:
    • The story tears into the supernatural high-school action genre (for example stories such as A Certain Scientific Railgun and The Asterisk War). Here, the whole high-school thing is just a front to give a somewhat appealing exterior and to hide the absolute hell that the students have to endure. The characters are treated as little more than weapons on legs and having been forced to essentially give up all their rights as human beings and are treated as disposable. And just like weapons in real life, there are numerous underground dealings to sell these kids to foreign powers without their knowledge. And to top it all off, those in charge will use whatever means necessary to keep the students under control, with everything from threats to drugs and numerous other things.
    • It also tears into the kind of powers you'd usually expect in a setting with superhumans, often by giving them a Logical Weakness, hefty costs or otherwise nasty results;
      • Despite being able to explode heads from meters away, those with Mind over Matter powers are easily gunned down because they can't form barriers out of raw telekinetic force or compressed air. Their abilities are explicitly established to have a time-lag and depend on their reflexes, meaning they have to manually stop each and every bullet that flies at them if they want to avoid getting hit—an impossible feat for an otherwise ordinary teenager to accomplish.
      • Mashiro has terrifying Super Strength that easily allows her to splatter her targets or wreck her surroundings, something that an optimist like her is not happy about despite being trained to kill. It only gets worse when her Superpowered Evil Side comes into play that turns her into The Berserker on top of her immense strength slowly starting to grow beyond her control, causing her to slowly become detached in a way that isn't to dissimilar to Kuroi himself...
      • Kuroi's superhuman intuition gives him a mix of Telepathy and The Empath that can't be turned off, and having it and a powerful ability to hypnotize people since he was a child had turned him into The Sociopath as a result. This was partly because being able to easily read other people like a book had ironically destroyed his ability to emphathize with others, and because such a powerset allows him to get him whatever he wants out of others without much effort, it led to Kuroi having such little regard for their lives to the point of either casually manipulating them for his own ends, letting them die when he could've easily prevented it, or killing them off directly with a Psychic-Assisted Suicide over minor teasing. Because it was such a surprisingly huge burden on him mentally, it shutting off fills him with so much ecstasy that he doesn't even register his eye getting plucked out of it's socket.
      • Asagi has Super Intelligence that gives him enhanced memory and foresight, but it's the result of a greatly aged brain that not only gave him very early onset dementia, but also means he'll suffer brain death within two years, resulting in a very nihilistic view of the world. It also nearly brings him to tears when a girl from Soapland that he has mutual feelings for was someone he couldn't forget despite distancing himself from her to spare her heartbreak.
    • The kicker to all this? Yanagi himself spells it out that the whole system of sending superpowered teenagers out to fight and kill is seen as just as impractical In-Universe as it as out. It's only due to a massive case of the Sunk Cost Fallacy that it's still continuing.
  • Gorn: From eyes popping out of their sockets from a Boom, Headshot!, to people being torn apart as their organs trail around, and gratuitous cases of An Arm and a Leg, nothing is usually held back; the fact that the first few chapters revolve around this happening to school children severely underarmed and not even remotely mentally prepared for warfare doesn't help. Heck, one of Mashiro's first kills results from her punching a man's head into paste, only to recoil as some of his teeth were jammed in her knuckles.
  • Large Ham: Kuroi often slips into this, specially when is something related to Mashiro.
    Kuroi: You're special! You're a different existence! With all common sense... and in the furthest depths of my awareness... I savored every moment, wondering what part of you was there hiding... Ahhh... This is great... I LOVE YOU! MASHIRO!
  • Literary Allusion Title: The story shares its name with the Akiko Yosano poem of the same name, that focused on how she wished for her son to return safe from a war. The story takes the title and turns it into a potential Be Careful What You Wish For scenario: perhaps your son will come back from the war, but he won't be your son anymore.
  • Logical Weakness:
    • Kuroi can read everyone thanks to his high intuition to the point he can feel landmines. However, if he is too angry, he can't muster the focus required. Additionally, he can't really use his Mind Rape powers on someone who is in a state where there really isn't a mind to toy with.
    • The kids are also better as commando or covert operations than open warfare, since they have no experience or even body armor to take gunfire. The fact that their telekinetic powers that they use to defend themselves with has a time-lag really leaves them with few defensive options against guns.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Long-range users' powers are transmitted through moisture, while short-range users channel theirs through their blood.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read:
    • Kuroi lost his mind long, long ago, due to his ability to read minds. He describes the unending noise as a nightmare, and the fact that his abilities allow him to manipulate anyone into doing whatever he wants broke him even further. By the time he discovers Mashiro, he is desperate to find a purpose in life since he always gets what he wants.
    • When Yanagi ends up in a squabble with Mashiro, something happens that causes both to catch a glimpse of each-others minds. Mashiro ends up seeing some of Yanagi's past, while whatever Yanagi saw inside Mashiro leaves him scared out of his wits.
  • Mind over Matter: A lot of the long range kids are using telekinesis, Usuki could crush cars while Mizukaki can barely fumble an apple.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight: Even the students with Made of Iron powers aren't bulletproof (the toughest,Mashiro just shrug off the gaping holes) yet due to Japan's strict gun regulations and the secrecy of their operations, katanas are the only thing they can give to them when they go in open warfare. It goes as well as you expect.
  • No-Sell: Kuroi put a "hole" in Mashiro (basically, a mental break that shatters the heart). It doesn't work.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Asagi brings up that Mashiro took several high caliber shoots to the stomach that should under no circumstances have been survivable, yet not only did she survive, she went and tore half an army apart singlehandedly despite the injury.
  • Only Sane Man: Usuki. Unfortunately, it didn't end well for him. In fact, his death marks the start of everyone going crazy, since no one is there to calm them as he had.
  • Plot-Driving Secret: Just what is it with Mashiro and her past. A lot of character interaction and driving plot elements run on that riddle.
  • Psychic Powers: Everyone in Special Abilities Private High School.
  • Psycho Serum:
    • The substance Tokiwa injects into Jean allows for normal humans to gain various psychic abilities, just like the kids, but in turn overloads their brains and causes them to go berserk for about 30 minutes before the brain effectively turns to mush.
    • Psy-Res, a form of metal that is able to resonate with any ability user with the help of their blood. However, as it becomes clear with Mashiro, it has some nasty side effects.
  • Rules Lawyer: Everything is set so that should the truth about the school be uncovered, the Japanese government can say the school was officially a N.G.O. and they have no weapon or gear provided by the Self Defense Force (soldiers with no guns); therefore, Japan didn't break their disarmament treaties.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: Kuroi tells Mashiro that the reason he enrolled in the Special Abilities Private High School was because he wants to see how far his powers can go. Now, this seems believable, taking in account that he says this after he cheerfully stabs a female soldier to death… Except it's not true. Kuroi's actual reason is he found that Mashiro is immune to his mind-reading powers, and he has become completely obsessed with her as a result.
  • Sex for Solace: The government secretly created Soap Land, a brothel with porno magazines where the students, most going through puberty, can blow off some steam and just try to deal with the situations they often find themselves in. Unknown to them, it also doubles as a sampling center.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Sometimes narrations in the middle of fight scenes pop up to explain in detail what is going on, killing the tension.
  • Slasher Smile: Kuroi has quite the tendency to crack some wicked smiles when things get messy. And eventually, Mashiro joins in on it as well.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: As explained by Yanagi in Chapter 36 during a takeover of Special Abilities Private High School, it's the entire reason why unethical projects like the superhuman program are still occurring despite the low success and high fatality rates, and attempts to rectify this such as the Psy-Res metal tend to backfire horribly. Ever since the initial goal of Immortality was established, too much money and promise was invested by multiple parties to simply stop, and the lives of countless teenagers is seen as too inconsequential to really matter in the long run as long as they either get results, or what seems like it to their superiors. Even Yanagi himself explicitly describes superhumans as "weapons full of defects".
  • Talking with Signs: The minor character Kurumi never speaks out loud. Instead, she writes on a small tablet computer whenever she wants something said.
  • Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Jean, the French leader of the R.A.I.D. went along the right wing party's plan of an ethnic cleansing using bioweapon derived from the psychic student. He does it because immigrants are flooding his country and destroying it since his family died in a terrorist attack (the arc was released in 2016).
  • War Is Hell: The story practically opens in a full blown war-zone with characters struggling not to succumb to despair as both friends and loved ones die brutal and messy deaths all around them.
  • Would Hurt a Child: No one cares if they are teenagers or younger once in the battlefield the kids get treated the same way as any forces. The school is pretty much violating all the laws around minors before even sending them to die in another country.
  • You Didn't Ask: Mashiro needs to order Kuroi to not kill or let fellow student die because even when he puts the nice guy act Kuroi doesn't get it.